Saturday, 2 November 2013

Film Review: Drinking Buddies (2013)

Director: Joe Swanberg
Writer: Joe Swanberg
Stars: Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick and Ron Livingston

Drinking Buddies is a low-fi drama which satisfies without breaking any new ground in the oft-told stories of ‘complex relationships’. Where this film differs from other dramedys is in the improvisational dialogue and, moreover, the ability of the cast to make it all sound and feel authentic.

The film tells a simple story of two couples and their intertwining relationships, but focuses mainly on the friendship between Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) who work together at a Boston brewery. When we meet them they are flirtatious, always meeting after work for a drink and it’s clear they have some kind of attraction, but the film is not as clear cut in its representation of relationships as the usual romcom. This is what gives Drinking Buddies its edge and its reason for keeping us watching.

Perhaps the best sequence comes later on in the film, where Luke helps Kate move into her new apartment. It is so clear he is helping her move not only because he wants to help but because he just wants to spend time alone with her, and vice versa. He asks her to dinner to celebrate but it’s for the ‘girlfriend experience’ rather than the need to eat out, yet she accepts showing willingness to go along with it; but does she want to take it as far as Luke does? We cannot be sure what either one really wants, or what will make them happy.

The beauty of this film lies in the honest portrayal of male and female relationships and how things can be so difficult to say at the risk of getting hurt or rejected, so at once everything and nothing is said in conversations. When everything is going well, we can live in a bubble, but when something bursts that bubble (as in the scene where Luke cuts his hand on a nail whilst carrying Kate’s couch), the film explores how quickly attitudes can change.

Writer and director Joe Swanberg keeps the film lively with a handheld camera, which, with the overlapping dialogue and (seemingly) quick and unrehearsed takes, lends an intimate and close dimension to the film. The film is tight at 90 minutes, and takes a while to get going but in doing so, makes the characters feel more ‘real’ and less like the written constructs which have been tweaked to make every demographic happy by committee.

Stop thinking for yourself verdict: Drinking Buddies is one of the best Indie films of the year, because it has something to say about adult lives, and not reliant on quirky characters or a hip soundtrack to win us over.

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